Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Amandla Stenberg, Dayo Okeniyi, Jack Quaid, Leven Rambin, Jacqueline Emerson, Paula Malcomson and Willow Shields.
The Hunger Games when it came out in March, became one of the most highest grossing movies of the year and one of the highest grossing movies ever, breaking many other records. Based on a very popular book by Suzanne Collins, its the first in the series of three books. The anticipation for this movie was great and represented the popularity of the source material among the audience which largely resulted in its huge opening and surprise Box-Office returns. Though for someone like me who haven't read the book and the fact that this whole popular teenage-targeted books series to big screen adaptation phenomenon is not largely appealing anymore after the disastrous Twilight's success, i wasn't quite excited for this movie. The Hunger Games is largely inspired by the Japanese movie Battle Royale as well as the reality shows like Survivor etc which is not a bad thing. Now i don't know about the book but the movie never seems to breakthrough for me, the whole political, racial, social, religious commentary that you expect from a movie that has those elements bleeding right through it, Ross misses that opportunity making for just another Hollywood entertainment which is empty on the inside while largely glossy on the outside.
The story takes place in the nation of Panem, in post-apocalyptic dystopian setup. From each of the 12 districts, a boy and girl would participate in the Hunger Games which is a televised event in which they are required to fight each other to death. In every district, the participants are selected through a lottery. From District 12 we see Katniss Everdeen volunteering to take the place of her very young sister being selected. And from the boys, Peeta Mellark is selected who is a baker's son and he once helped Katnis giving her bread when her family was starving. It takes a while to get into the movie, they show the poverty and the worse situations of the district and the family of Katniss. We see Katniss hunting in the Forrest and we immediately know how brave, determined and strong she is. The whole dystopian setup really seems grim and you feel so bad for everyone standing in the crowd, those poor helpless people with fear dripping down their face. Both Katniss and Peeta are taken to Capitol in a lovely train and accompanying them are their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy who once won the game himself and Effie Trinket who hosted the lottery. As much as it is important for all the participants to be physically strong, skilled in various fighting and protection techniques, strong will and determination to survive in the harshest of the conditions, they also need to get themselves the sponsors. Katniss and Peeta have Cinna to take care of that, he dresses them up in a way to attract the crowd and to really distract those officials and divert the attention towards them, its all about putting up the best show. We also have Cesar Flickerman, a very beloved television show host and his show in which each participants has to appear in order to introduce themselves to everyone. They also need to show their skills to the higher officials, sort of a test where they have the most chance of getting the sponsors, that is where they get the points.
When Katniss arrives for her test, no one seems to be taking her very seriously, she makes an attempt to hit the target but it misfires. The people above starts socializing again eating and drinking without noticing what Katniss is up to next, she immediately aims for the apple that is placed on a dish and everyone gets creeped out. Those people definitely gets an idea of the fact that this girl is special and she might just be a real threat to them. The Hunger Games, as much as it shows us this vision of dystopian future that Collins imagined, it also gives us a look at what is going on around us right now. The reality television, the way media acts, the politics that shapes our lives and how a society acts. Even though all of this could have made this movie a little bit more in depth considering the material it had for some potential socio-political commentary and satire, it just fails in doing so and gives a feeling of "strictly for the readers of the book". After all this glitz and glam and the whole pretending superficial extravagant celebrations of people about to die, once we finally reach the hunger games part, we start expecting a fierce and intense battle of teenagers with utmost potential. As soon as they are given the cue, all 24 participants runs for their lives trying to grab as much goods as they can which they'll need in order to survive. We see many of them being killed by others and the camera suddenly starts shaking in order to not show clearly whats happening keeping the audience in their minds. This was one of my problems with the movie. Now i am all for shaky camera techniques but only where it is actually needed, this movie wasn't one of them. When you see people running, hiding, hitting, grabbing and stabbing, you get a certain amount of disturbance on the camera as it follows the characters. But to clearly hide the blood and gore to water down certain elements, that is just not good. I didn't expect The Hunger Games to be an R-rated movie but as the title suggests wasn't it all about that? Instead what we got is a watered down Gladiator mixed with lots of Zoolander with a dragged episode of Survivor and an overdose of Bachelor/Bachelorette in the end.
The build up for the games came of as rather satisfying if slow but the actual on field gaming aspect of it after a certain time started feeling like a big bore to me. Katniss is seeing wandering around the woods, hiding, surviving and sleeping on the trees while Peeta joins a rival group. When in the end, they are left with each other, they starts pretending to have feelings for each other in order to get sponsors. That part even though comes off as rather awkward but they had to do it. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen gives off a good performance in a role that demanded all that along with right physical strength which Lawrence makes sure she has. She comes off as this role model for other girls and women in general in this male driven world where she shows how girls can do things equally and in some ways even better. Katniss is brave and very mature, her appearance on the games (specially there is a certain thing she almost does in the very end) hints towards the awakening of these people. President Coriolanus Snow fears that people having seen her like this might turns up against them. We hardly see such a rebellious female "action" figure these days and the ones we do are not meant to do that. Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks (thanks largely to her complete transformation) also gives off some really good performances but the rest of the cast doesn't. Technically this movie has some of the best production design, costumes, visual effects and sound effects that i have seen this year. I wanted to like this movie because it had potential, i still don't understand the largely enthusiastic critical response that it got. This movie was clearly just for the readers of the book and for a certain audience who wanted to experience a 10 times more mature movie adaptation than Twilight. It still is much better than the garbage that is produced in the name of entertainment these days but i only wish they made a much more better movie than it was.